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Infamous drug kingpin portrayed by Denzel Washington in American Gangster, dead at 88 

The infamous drug kingpin who inspired 2007 movie American Gangster has died at 88.

Frank Lucas passed away on his way to hospital in New Jersey on Thursday, TMZ reported.

He was being transported due to a health issue that night but never made it.

Lucas died of natural causes, his nephew Aldwan Lassiter confirmed to Rolling Stone. 

Frank Lucas passed away in New Jersey on Thursday at the age of 88. He is pictured June 2010

Frank Lucas wears $50,000 full-length chinchilla fur coat during his heyday as a drug kingpin

Frank Lucas wears $50,000 full-length chinchilla fur coat during his heyday as a drug kingpin

Denzel Washington played the character Lucas inspired in 2007’s American Gangster

Lucas is survived by his seven children. 

At one point he and his wife Julianna Farrait-Rodriguez were referred to as the black Bonnie and Clyde ‘because we have always stuck by one another’, she told The Voice newspaper.   

She was sent away for five years in 2010 for trying to sell cocaine to a government informant in Puerto Rico. At the time she was 65 and Lucas was 81. She inspired the character Eva in the 2007 Oscar-nominated Denzel Washington film American Gangster.

His death comes at least 50 years after he became well known for being drugs on the streets of New York. 

During the 60s and 70s Lucas claimed he had the best heroin in Harlem, nicknaming his Blue Magic because it was 10 per cent pure compared to the regular 5 per cent.

Lucas was said to have dealt to top politicians, business people and those in the Hollywood film industry. He later bragged he would take to the streets around 4pm with his heroin when the cops were on a two-hour shift switch-over.

He claimed he’d have a million dollars by 10pm when the heroin was sold out.  

Lucas is survived by his seven children. He poses with his wife Julie and son Ray in New York. He and his family entered witness protection after he was busted for dealing in 1975

Lucas is survived by his seven children. He poses with his wife Julie and son Ray in New York. He and his family entered witness protection after he was busted for dealing in 1975

Lucas died Thursday night on his way to hospital in New York. He is pictured at the November 2008 Big Apple Convention in Manhattan a year after a movie he inspired was released

Lucas died Thursday night on his way to hospital in New York. He is pictured at the November 2008 Big Apple Convention in Manhattan a year after a movie he inspired was released

The North Carolina-born man spent much of his time in the Big Apple during the height of his notoriety and had additional set-ups in Chicago, Miami, Detroit and even Puerto Rico.

But in 1975 his downfall came when the DEA raided his New Jersey home and found more than $584,000 cash. 

His assets were seized and he was later sentenced to 70 years in prison after being convicted of federal and state drug violations.

He famously wore a $50,000 full-length chinchilla fur coat during his heyday as a drug kingpin. 

But the coat was worn to the fight of the century in January 1974 – Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier and he appeared so ostentatious that it seemingly got him caught. 

At the time of his prosecution Lucas – who has claimed he had so much money he didn’t know what to do with it – informed investigators about others mixed up in the trouble. 

His assets were seized and he was later sentenced to 70 years in prison after being convicted of federal and state drug violations

He was released after five years but busted again for dealing drugs and locked up until 1991

His assets were seized and he was later sentenced to 70 years in prison after being convicted of federal and state drug violations. He was released after five years but busted again for dealing drugs and locked up until 1991

He and his family entered witness protection.

After spending five years behind bars his sentence was reduced to the time he’d already served but after getting out he was soon convicted for drug charges again.

Lucas – who was on lifetime parole from his previous conviction – was locked up for another seven years until 1991.

He and his wife split after he left prison but they reconciled in 2006. 

Lucas claimed to have used the coffins of dead US servicemen to smuggle narcotics from Southeast Asia.

Frank Lucas promotes Original Gangster at Borders Penn Plaza June 9, 2010 in New York

Frank Lucas promotes Original Gangster at Borders Penn Plaza June 9, 2010 in New York 

‘Who the hell is gonna look in a dead soldier’s coffin,’ Lucas told the New York Times in 2000, claiming somebody would make up copies of the government coffins, fix them up with false bottoms and load in 6-8kg of heroin.

He claimed he only survived the means streets because ‘people like the f**k out of me’. 

In 2007 Denzel Washington’s character in American Gangster was based on Lucas. 

Washington played Lucas, the organised crime boss who married the beauty queen after meeting her in a nightclub. 

The film was even referenced when his wife was prosecuted in 2010. That same year Lucas had released a book titled Original Gangster.

‘Like in the movie American Gangster, Frank Lucas was known to have made millions of dollars peddling heroin throughout the streets of New York City,’ said DEA Special Agent in Charge John Gilbride at the time.

‘His wife has taken up his role by trying to sell two kilograms of cocaine in Puerto Rico with the goal of sending them to be sold on the New York City streets.’

Farrait-Rodriguez once told a newspaper she was attracted to danger. She added that she missed trips and owning diamonds and luxury cars.

‘Those who say that money is not important are lying,’ she said. ‘People say that money does not buy happiness. It doesn’t?’

The film was even referenced when his wife was prosecuted for drug dealing in 2010

The film was even referenced when his wife was prosecuted for drug dealing in 2010

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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